Sir Agravain (sometimes Sir Agravaine) is the second and most unpleasing son of King Lot of Orkney and Queen Morgause in Arthurian Legend. Queen Morgause ( Anna ) is the sister to King Arthur, thus making Sir Agravain King Arthur’s nephew, brother to Sir Gawain, Sir Gaheris, and Sir Mordred his half-brother.
He was knighted in King Arthur’s court because of his bravery in the Saxon war and for liberating Prisoners on the Hill of Wretches. He was also accepted into the Order of the Round Table.
In the Prose Lancelot and Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, Sir Agravain gained himself the title of “The Proud” and “The Arrogant” for his disagreeable character and strong resilient spirit, this was depicted when he bragged to his brothers that he will lay with any unwilling beautiful lady if he wanted. Gaheris responded with mockery, and Agravain launched at him, but Gawain intervenes and rebuked him for his excessive pride and bullying nature.
Aggravain loathed any Knight that was perceived as honorable and brave. His misbehavior includes the participation in the killing of Lamorak and the murder of Sir Dinadan during the Grail Quest.
However, in the early works, his physical features were deemed good-looking, and most considered him as a handsome character whereas in Vulgate Cycle he is described as having a “some-what misshaped body”.
He is quite taller than Gawain and possesses a strong looking body. Although Sir Agravain is scarcely seen on the front lines of the Battlefield, he was known as “Agravain who knew no wounds” because he always emerged from wars uninjured.
A dominant trait Agravain possessed in the prose Romances, was his undeniable hatred for his brother Gaheris. In the Post-Vulgate Cycle, Agravain got very jealous of Gaheris because he was to be knighted by Merlin in order to search for Gawain and free him from captivity.
Agravain further claimed he will be knighted before his brother and by King Arthur himself, based on his age. He is always seen engaged in a Physical brawl with this particular brother. According to Vulgate Merlin, Agravain, and his Orkney brothers who were squires in Camelot were later on knighted together.
As a growing lad, his behavior earned him a lot of dislike from the general public. He hated court and kept to himself. Unlike his father Lot, he was fond of picking fights and was considered not very smart. Lot had a healthy respect for the fact that the women in his family were terrifying, but Agravain never tooks this fact seriously.
He lived in Orkney as an unfriendly boy until he was fifteen years when Mordred and Gawain came to Orkney and took him with them to Camelot.
In Camelot, he always went after the women who never appreciated his interest. In a drunken state at his younger brother’s marriage, he proposed to the cousin of his younger brother’s wife in an attempt to take her to bed and ended up marrying someone he never loved or cared for. He eventually left her at their estate and returned to Camelot.
Some Redeeming Portrayals
Agravain is not always depicted as a negative character with negative qualities. He is sometimes known as a hero and an adventurous man. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight he is known as “Agravain of the Hard Hand”.
He is also included amongst the respectable and competent knights in King Arthur’s court. One of his heroic deeds includes the Saxon battle were he fought bravely.
In one of his adventures, in the Vulgate Cycle’s Prose Lancelot, he killed evil Lord Druas (The Cruel). Another instance can be seen when Gawain his brother was accused of deceit and treachery by Guigambresil, and he offered to fight on his brother’s behalf.
Agravain wouldn’t have been able to woo and win the heart of Lady Floree (or Laurel) who was niece to the King of Scotland if there was no good in him.
Sir Agravain proved himself to be capable of true love emotions. Guinevere is the only woman he held in high regard. He sees her as the opposite of his mother who is very mean and almost impossible to please, whereas Guinevere is sweet, kind, very beautiful and always exuded grace.
He would rather end his life than see any harm come to her. Unfortunately, he found out she was sleeping with Sir Lancelot which totally broke him because he really believed Guinevere was different from other women he had known all his life. This was perceived as an act of betrayal, thus making Guinevere his enemy and Lancelot his rival.
He played a massive role to expose the affair to King Arthur. In the Vulgate Cycle of Arthurian Lore, It is Agravain who is portrayed as the master conspirator, not Mordred.
Agravain is mentioned to be popular in his abilities to torture and conduct cruel interrogation, his expertise was likened to make a Hippopotamus squeal and ask for mercy in human language. In the French Prose cycle tradition, It tells a story of how Agravain was cursed by two ladies on different occasions, one cursed him for joking about wounding a Knight and the other for trying to force himself on her and then not hiding his disgust about her infected leg.
The Dead of Agravain
Sir Agravain’s death was brought about by his greatest offense which was, conspiring with Mordred to expose Lancelot’s and Queen Guinevere’s affair.
When Arthur was not in court, Agravain connived with a band of knights and arrested the lovers. According to Mallory, Agravain was killed during Lancelot’s escape from the Queen’s chamber but Vulgate Cycle has a different account of his death.
In Vulgate, Guinevere is to be burned at the stake for her Infidelity, Agravain was selected as one of the Knights assigned to her death charge. Lancelot who was filled with rage and anguish rode on his horse and attacked the cavalry aiming directly for Agravain whom he sighted, striking him with his Lance. Agravain died reflecting on the life he could have lived as a protector to the King and his Kingdom.
Cite This Article
Bibliography and Further Reading
- Norris Lacy, Geoffrey Ashe, Debra Mancoff – The Arthurian Handbook (Second Edition)
- Alan Lupack – The Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend
- Ronan Coghlan – The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends
- Anonymous – Lancelot-Grail, the French Vulgate
- Sir Thomas Malory – Le Morte d’Arthur